The Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce hosted a special afternoon when they welcomed long-time Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster and Red Deer native Ron MacLean, along with the chief architect of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver John Furlong.
Furlong, who was introduced by MacLean as the Bobby Orr of Games hosting, spoke to a group of Chamber members including the 2019 Canada Winter Games Society, who will be hosting their own Games five months from now.
Furlong said it is important for everyone in the community to get engaged in an event like this.
“The goal is to get everyone in and to demonstrate that everyone has a role to play,” he said. “This is a one-time chance and you don’t want to be on the outside.
“It is for everyone and it is on everyone to create this feeling in the community that it is about all of us.”
Furlong also had the opportunity the previous night to meet with the Games Board, staff and volunteers. It was here he stressed the importance of trying to touch everyone who comes to the Games in February.
“Smile and be positive to create a feeling that the whole town is doing the work and not just the elite organizing committee,” he said.
Furlong said the first thing that any organizer of a Games should do is consider the lasting legacy they will have on the community.
“The real legacies for me are the human ones. First of all is leaving behind a capacity to do great things and a confidence to confront whatever comes in the future,” he said. “If you consider the community a team, you are just making the team stronger. You are filling them with a sense of being invincible and that is what the Games do.”
For Furlong, the last legacy of Vancouver 2010 lives on and he sees similarities between the team he had then and the one Red Deer has now.
“The leadership is strong, the board is strong, the culture is healthy and not to the same scale, but the kind of thing we were wanting to do,” he said. “You are in good hands, but the distance to the finish line is not just on them. It is on everyone and it should be on everyone to ask themselves, ‘What can I do to top up what has been done?’”
One of the things Furlong touched on during his speech was the heartbreak he and everyone went through after Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger, died tragically on the first day of the Games on the track.
This was the first challenge Furlong and his team faced. Furlong and his team, however, carried on with the Games while still honouring Kumaritashvili and his family. Vancouver eventually culminated winning 14 gold medals, the most ever — with the last one being won by NHLer Sidney Crosby, who scored the golden goal in overtime against the Americans.
This story of perseverance through adversity is one Games CEO Scott Robison and his team are taking to heart.
“We know some things will happen we can’t control,” he said. “We don’t know what they are at this point, but you have to be prepared to respond. As John really aptly shared with us, that is when you are on stage — when things happen you don’t expect.
“The way you respond is exactly what you need to be prepared for and we have a great community behind these Games. We know we will be ready.”
Robison was thankful for the time his team had to share with Furlong.
“We have had enough time to share John with our staff, volunteers and our board,” Robison said. “Having him sharing those experiences not only gives you a road map of where you need to go but also gives you the confidence that you are on the right track.”
Furlong even indicated that the track could extend beyond 2019, suggesting Red Deer should try to get on board with Calgary’s bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.
“You are perfectly positioned to take advantage of that Olympic window,” he said. “I promise you that when these games are over, it will be the first thing you think about. It is a natural progression from having achieved this.”
The 2019 Canada Winter Games run Feb. 15th until March 3rd, 2019 in Red Deer.